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Murdoch battle for viewers with GB News triggers bidding war

·2-min read
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murdoch

Rupert Murdoch's TalkTV and its rival GB News are locked in a bidding war over a channel slot on Virgin Media that would aid their struggle to attract viewers.

The fledgling news networks are vying to secure the more prominent 604 slot on the pay TV operator's channel guide to help stiffen their challenge to the BBC.

Such a deal would shift either GB News or TalkTV up from their respective 626 and 627 positions to be closer to the 24-hour news channels of the BBC and Sky.

Analysts have pointed to the networks' less competitive position on TV channel menus as one of the reasons why they have not amassed bigger audiences.

The opinionated news stations are currently stuck below overseas networks such as Al Jazeera and France 24 on the Virgin channel guide, while the 604 channel sits between Sky News and BBC Parliament. BBC News HD holds the 601 position.

It comes as TalkTV attempts to organise a rematch of its Tory leadership debate last week, which it cut short after presenter Kate McCann fainted live on air.

Rishi Sunak, left, Kate McCann, centre, and Liz Truss at the TalkTV Tory leadership debate - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Rishi Sunak, left, Kate McCann, centre, and Liz Truss at the TalkTV Tory leadership debate - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Mr Murdoch, who also owns The Sun and The Times, held talks about investing in GB News but later decided to launch his own upstart channel.

However, his own TV network has so far failed in its attempts to dislodge GB News, the BBC or Sky, despite hiring combative presenter Piers Morgan after he left ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Jeremy Kyle, the former ITV presenter, is poised to replace Piers Morgan on his eponymous show when he takes a break from over the summer to film a series of true crime documentaries as part of his far-reaching contract with News Corp.

Mr Murdoch’s deal with Morgan also includes a column in the Sun and New York Post, a book deal with HarperCollins and contributions to Fox News.

TalkTV's The News Desk with Tom Newton Dunn and Piers Morgan Uncensored attracted average audiences of 2,500 and 33,900 in the 7pm and 8pm slots on Thursday, according to the TV ratings compiler BARB.

GB News' 7pm show presented by the former UKIP leader Nigel Farage secured 64,000 viewers, while its 8pm show 46,000 viewers. BBC News brought in an audience of 72,000 and 58,000 across the 7pm and 8pm slots.

A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “Like other providers of electronic programme guides, Virgin Media reviews its listings from time to time as provided for under our electronic programming guide policy. We do not comment on any ongoing discussions.”

TalkTV and GB News declined to comment.